Robert Bristow
Eliza Batchelor
Henry Bristow of Tonbridge


Family Links

Matilda Avis

Henry Bristow of Tonbridge

  • Born: Oct 1842, Priory Rd., Tonbridge, Kent, England 1
  • Christened: 1 Jan 1843, Tonbridge, Kent, England 2
  • Married: 25 Dec 1869, St. Peter's Church, Pembury, Kent, England 3
  • Died: 28 Feb 1939, Sunnyside, Shipbourne Rd., Tonbridge, Kent, England 4
  • Buried: 3 Mar 1939, Tonbridge, Kent, England

  Research Notes:

At the time of the 1861 England Census Henry Bristow, age 17, born in Tonbridge Kent, bricklayer's labourer, was with his parents Robert Bristow, shoemaker, and Eliza, at 17 Salubrions Place, Tonbridge Kent.

At the time of the 1871 England Census Henry Bristow, age 27, born in Tunbridge Kent, labourer, and wife Matilda Bristow, age 22, born in Southboro Kent, were living in Cephan Place, Tunbridge Kent. With them were daughter Kate L (8 months) of Southboro, and [Matilda's sister] Ellen L Avis (25) of Southboro, dressmaker.

In Dec 1874 Henry Bristow was present at the marriage of his brother-in-law James Peter Avis to Ellen Johnson in Tonbridge Kent.

At the time of the 1881 England Census Henry Bristow, age 37, born in Tunbridge Kent, general labourer, and wife Matilda Bristow, age 32, born in Tunbridge Kent, were living in Strawberry Vale, Tunbridge Kent. Present were children (born in Tunbridge): Kate L (10), scholar, Henry J (7), scholar, Frank (3), and Friend (6 mo).

At the time of the 1891 England Census Henry Bristow, age 47, born in Tonbridge Kent, g laborer, and wife Matilda Bristow, age 42, born in Southboro Kent, were living at 37 Lavender Hill, Tonbridge. With them were children (born in Tonbridge): Henry J (17), laborer, Frank (13), Friend (10), scholar, and Matilda (7), scholar.

At the time of the 1901 England Census Henry Bristow, age 57, born in Tonbridge Kent, railway scaffolder, and wife Matilda Bristow, age 52, born in Southborough Kent, were living at 36 Lavender Hill, Tonbridge. With them were children (born in Tonbridge): Friend (20), bricklayer, Matilda (17).

At the time of the 1911 England Census Henry Bristow, age 68, born in Tonbridge Kent, bricklayer's labourer, and wife of 41 years Matilda Bristow, age 63, born in Southborough Kent (mother of 5 children), were boarding with [their daughter] Matilda Wickenden and her family at 48 Hectorage Road, Tonbridge Kent.


Link with Old Tonbridge Broken

Ninety-Seven-Year Old Resident

Father and Grandfather Lived in Town all their Lives

PROBABLY Tonbridge's oldest inhabitant, Mr. Henry Bristow, of Sunnyside, Shipbourne Road, died on Tuesday.

By his death a link with the Tonbridge of yesterday is broken.

Mr. Bristow, who celebrated his 97th birthday last October, was born in Priory Road, Tonbridge, in 1841*, and had lived and worked in the town all his life, as did his father and his grandfather.

Records in Tonbridge Parish Church trace the history of Mr. Bristow's family back for 300 years.

Readers will no doubt remember that a few months ago we published an article containing Mr. Bristow's reminiscences of old Tonbridge, together with old photographs of the town which, to most inhabitants, are unfamiliar.

Mr. Bristow had seen Tonbridge grow and develop from a town of about 8,000 to one of over 18,000 people.

Large housing estates have sprung up where, in Mr. Bristow's youth, were open fields.

Quite recently he had visited some of the various buildings and districts which he remembered as fields. The town has changed almost beyond recognition since Mr. Bristow's early days.


Mr. Bristow himself was a veritable history of Tonbridge.

He proved of valuable assistance to the late Mr. Arthur H. Neve in the compilation of "The Tonbridge of Yesterday."

As a boy, Mr. Bristow was employed at Tonbridge Railway Station when it was situated in Priory Road. He later assisted in its removal to its present site. He also helped in the building of the railway from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells.

What did our modern, well-lighted High Street look like in those days?

When relating some of his reminiscences last year, Mr. Bristow told us: "When I see the High Street to-day, it seems a bit different from what it used to be.

"At the station side of Little Bridge there was a farmyard, and as we passed we could lean over and swish the rears of the cows. That bridge was so steep that it needed a good horse to pull a load across, and it was only a few feet broad.


"The Big Bridge in those days had stone arches and a kind of metal fence with pear-shaped tops. . . . . The small lock-up (or prison) was opposite the South-Eastern Hotel. The big lock-up, which held two or three people, was near the Pound in Bank Street. They put the stray cows and horses in the Pound.


"In front of where Portlock's shop is to-day," he related, "the old Town Hall used to stand right in the road. I've seen the old Town Hall flooded with water several feet deep, and yet we were sometimes so short of water for the railway engines that we had to get it from reservoirs at the Priory Mill.

"Markets used to have their stalls along each side of the High Street," he said, "but the fair was the time when there'd be some commotion.

"Each side of the High Street, stalls sold gingerbreads and sweets and anything else you could think of. And right in front of the Chequers was the greasy pole. Chaps used to shin up—or try to—to a leg of mutton perched on the top. And didn't they fall down!"

* Note that Henry Bristow's birth was registered during the 4th quarter of 1842 such that he would have been 96 when he died, and in his 97th year.

Tonbridge Free Press, 3 March 1939, p. 2


LATE MR. H. BRISTOW.—Mr. Henry Bristow, whose death was reported in last week's "Free Press," was buried at Tonbridge Cemetery on Friday. The mourners were: Mr. and Mrs. Wickenden (son-in-law and daughter), Mr. H. Bristow (son), Mrs. Smith (daughter), Mr. and Mrs. F. Bristow (son and daughter-in-law, of Bexhill), Mrs. Chalklin (granddaughter), Mrs. Wickenden (granddaughter), Mr. F. Bristow (nephew) and Mr. Ralph....

Tonbridge Free Press, 10 March 1939, p. 7

  Marriage Information:

Henry married Matilda Avis, daughter of John Avis and Hannah Pollington Puttock, on 25 Dec 1869 in St. Peter's Church, Pembury, Kent, England. (Matilda Avis was born in 1848 in Southborough, Kent, England, christened on 3 Sep 1848 in St. Peter, Southborough, Kent, England, and died in 1927 in the Tonbridge District, Kent, England, aged 79 years.)

  Marriage Notes:

Henry Bristow, of full age, bachelor, labourer, resident of Pembury, son of Robert Bristow, labourer, and
Matilda Avis, of full age, spinster, resident of Pembury, daughter of John Avis, labourer

Witnesses: Frederick Bristow, Fanny Bristow


1 England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008, Tonbridge district, 4th Quarter, vol. 5, p. 471.

2 England & Wales, Christening Index, 1530-1980.

3 Pembury St. Peter Kent Parish Registers, Marriages, p. 126, no. 251.

4 England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007, Tonbridge district, 1st Quarter, vol. 2a, p. 1519.

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